LAHS track and field athletes win CCS playoffs and take a trip to states


Milan Grbovic

The LAHS track and field team win CCS playoffs and therefore several athletes secure a trip to states hosted in Fresno, California for the 2023 spring season.

Record breaking, historic, dominant — all of these qualities apply to the Los Altos High School varsity track teams. Yet, there is a way to easily simplify this description, while still being just as, if not more, accurate. The teams are just really, really, really fast.

The teams proved their raw speed in their undefeated league seasons, athlete successes at invitational meets and at CCS finals last Saturday, May 20. The varsity girls found their way to the top of the CCS finals podium for the first time ever, and the boys team had a strong fourth overall ranking out of the 162 schools in CCS, despite many of them not running their season best times.

“I didn’t even qualify for finals last year,” senior Paige Kasso said. “So to make it to states this year is crazy.”

“It’s really rewarding for hard work to pay off,” senior Leopold Gobel said. “Especially so many of us being able to go to states. That’s a huge opportunity, and I think the whole team is super happy that we have that opportunity.”

Before the track events started, field events — jumps and throws — began. While many Los Altos jumpers and throwers just missed qualifying for finals, those that did qualify in the field events were within the top eight in their respective events, adding to the team’s score. On top of that, senior Zach Fagin got first in high jump and third in long jump, qualifying him for states in two different field events.

“When I started track, I didn’t really even think about finals or stuff like that,” Zach said. “I didn’t really know what states were. I was just kind of doing it for fun. So, it’s pretty cool looking back to see how far I’ve come.”

With the field events underway, the first race of the day, the 4 by 100 meter relay, was about to start. In almost every meet, the 4×100 is the opening race, and throughout the season, the race let the Eagles immediately prove how fast they could fly on the track. Finals were no exception, with both teams getting second place with personal best times and qualifying for states.

“It’s really cool to get into states,” freshman Ananya Vaswani said. “When I first started this year, I never thought I’d even be on varsity, I thought I was going to be on JV. So just even making it this far and actually going to states is a crazy experience.”

“For the four by one, that was my first time racing it ever,” senior Megan MacKenzie said. “So that was an exciting way to kick that off.”

Despite the boys 4×100 breaking their own school record which broke a long-standing 1970s record, the runners still think they have more to give.

“Being finalists and on that podium is definitely a bucket list item that we checked off,” junior Nathaniel Guilory said. “But it’s not exactly what we wanted. Leo was coming off an injury, I ran tight and you know, we just had race jitters.”

“They’ll be very hungry next week, to improve upon their time and try and make the state meet final,” Sprints Coach Dave Barth said. “I think they’ll come out. I think they’ll PR again. I think they’ve got a very good chance of getting into the final.”

Over the next few events, Los Altos athletes continued to competed well. In sprints, Zach and Paige scored in their respective 100 meter races, Nathaniel scored in the 200 meter and freshman Daniela Hughes scored in both. In distance, Junior Jasleen Sidhu qualified for states by placing third in the 1600 meter.

As well as these races, senior Brandon Louie competed in the mixed ambulatory 400 meter, where he raced against a non wheelchair ambulatory athlete, winning with a time of 1:15.8. Brandon also competed in the ambulatory 100 and 200 meter races, as well as shot put. With Los Altos being the only school that has a wheelchair track athlete in CCS, Brandon will have a chance to compete against other wheelchair athletes at states.

“States is the first time that I’m really going to be seeing other wheelchair athletes during my senior season,” Brandon said. “I’m happy to have anybody to race against because there’s not that much available competition, but definitely seeing someone else in a wheelchair kind of makes me feel like the playing field is truly close to being even. It also definitely makes it feel more like a race that I might have ran when I was able bodied.”

The next relay race was the newly added 4 by 800 meter. With the long-distance part of the girls team having so much talent, the addition of the 4×800 was a boon to Los Altos, and the relay team’s dominance in previous meets showed on the track. The team broke the previous school record by over 20 seconds, and this team’s season best by almost 45 seconds, placing second and shooting the girls team up the scoreboard.

“The thing about this team is the depth that we have,” Distance Coach Steph MacKenzie said. “Whenever we need to fill a relay, if one athlete is at another event or is tired, someone is always there to step up and take the spot.”

The race was also the last chance for the boys team to get points, as the boys 4 by 400 meter scratched and no more individual boy athletes had events. The ran a decent 12 out of 17, but ultimately the relay was unable to score.

With the boys set at fourth place, and only two events left following the 4×800, things looked tough, though still doable for Los Altos to place well. But when the going gets tough, the team really does get going. With the 3200 meter next, Los Altos had an ace up its sleeve. The Eagles qualified into CCS finals — again, a section with 162 schools — not one, not two, but four runners into the 3200.

As the longest race of the day went on, it became obvious which school won the state championship in girls cross country. Senior Lauren Soobrian placed first, Jasleen placed second, senior Fiona Bodkin placed fifth and freshman Lydia Anderson placed eighth. With all four of the athletes scoring points, and two moving onto states, the girls went back to being strong contenders for the CCS title.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get into states for the 32,” Jasleen said. “I was just doing the 32 for points to help our team, but I just saw the girl in front of me and I thought, ‘why not try?’ Running for your team definitely helps, it keeps me motivated and reminds me of cross country. You do it for the team.”

The final event of the day was the 4×400, but despite the dominant showing in the 3200, the team still needed to get fifth to tie for first, or fourth to win. The consensus at the time? Not grim per se, but there wasn’t utter confidence.

“I hadn’t run a four by four in over a month,” Megan said. “We were ranked around fifth or sixth going in.”

But to everyone’s surprise, not the least to the coaches of the competitors, the girls once again utterly dominated. The results had no barely inched out fourth or fifth place like hoped, but instead, Los Altos placed second by less than a second — the winners, Saint Francis High School, got forced to beat their season best by three seconds just to edge out the Eagles by half of one. With the last race of the night done, the now concrete lead gave the girls team their first CCS victory ever, three relays into states and a continued undefeated streak.

“I just started track for fun, so winning CCS is a really good feeling,” junior Maddy Randall said. “When I started, I saw how committed the upperclassmen were and how committed all my teammates were, and it really inspired me to work my butt off. And yeah. Now we’re here.”

“We have strong athletes and we’re picking up points in every event group, from the throws, to the jumps, to the sprints and to distance,” Coach MacKenzie said. “That’s how you win CCS.”

“Each individual contributed in their own way, whether they got first, second, third, fourth,” Jumps and Sprints Coach Drew Russert said. “It was a team effort at the end of the day. And whether someone got a PR or whether someone didn’t do as well as they would’ve liked, ultimately they did their job for the team, and I believe that’s the reason why we won this meet today.”